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'Nobody respects the taxi drivers'

Before ride-sharing services came along, cabs were the only game in town.

Akkoc Tekin has an aching lower back from driving a taxi for 22 years. He had surgery but it still hurts.OPINION

Earlier this week while making a lease payment for the cab he drives, a Ford Escape hybrid, Tekin heard other taxi drivers complaining about back pain.“Youngsters don’t realize it,” Tekin, 65, said of the price many drivers pay for years of sitting slumped behind a steering wheel. “Later it will start.”The job has brought pain to his heart, too, he told me while waiting for a fare outside the Ritz-Carlton at Water Tower Place. No other family member has had heart trouble, yet he already has had bypass surgery.“Dealing with people is very stressful,” he said. “Nobody respects the taxi drivers. We are third-class people.”Tekin is getting out of the taxi business, hopefully early in 2015, he said.It’s not physical ailments or stress driving him out. Although he misses the old days of chatting with customers, who nowadays yammer on their cell phones, that has nothing to do with his disillusionment.It’s because of Uber, perhaps the most popular app-based ridesharing service in Chicago. Tekin’s part-time earnings have decreased by more than 50 percent because of such services, he said. Some of that can be attributed to working less as he grew discouraged over fewer fares.The existence of app-based services can be good for customers who benefit from lower prices but tough on those whose earnings plunge dramatically. In that sense, the technological revolution has been a blessing and a curse.Look at some industries affected:The convenience of Amazon has emptied bookstores.Musicians not named Taylor Swift, Kanye or Beyonce struggle to make a buck on records because the late Steve Jobs decided songs weren’t worth much.Free-flowing information on the Internet is bringing the demise of newspapers, but let’s not go there.The taxi industry is the latest to cope with rapid change and is finding that its lobbyists are no match for those backing Uber. Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s brother Ari is an investor in Uber, and some taxi drivers point to them as rich, powerful influencers bringing havoc to their livelihoods.Deeply regulated, taxi drivers have a legitimate beef over Uber’s ignore-the-rules-now, ask-for-forgiveness-later approach to steamroll into cities.But ridesharing services are here to stay, said cab driver Halani Mansoor.“Once people like it, it cannot stop,” he said.His two adult sons use Uber to get around Downtown, and it makes financial sense, Mansoor said. “People who go from Lincoln Park or Wicker Park to the Loop, they can save a lot of money.”He works nine or 10 hours a day to make what he used to for eight hours, he said.A much younger driver, Akram Abuhani, 28, works 12 hours a day for a profit of $80 to $100, he said. That’s down from $120 to $150.After working about seven hours Tuesday, he had broken even for the day. The rest of the day would bring profit.“What am I going to make today?” he asked. “Fifty or $60?”He, too, is planning to leave the business. His circle of friends who drive cabs dwindled from 12 to seven this year.“Business is very, very slow,” he said.Email: